Rapidly alternating contractions and relaxations of the muscles, causing irregular movements of the limbs or body generally, usually accompanied by unconsciousness.
Causes The most common reason for convulsions is EPILEPSY, and the underlying cause of the latter often remains uncertain. In newborns, convulsions may be due to HYPOXIA following a diﬃcult labour, or to low levels of sugar or calcium in the blood (HYPOGLYCAEMIA; HYPOCALCAEMIA). A sudden rise of body temperature during infective illness may induce convulsions in an infant or young child.
Diseases of the brain, such as meningitis, encephalitis and tumours, or any disturbance of the brain due to bleeding, blockage of a blood vessel, or irritation of the brain by a fracture of the skull, may also be responsible for convulsions (see BRAIN, DISEASES OF).
Asphyxia, for example from choking, may also bring on convulsions.
Treatment Newborns with hypoglycaemia or hypocalcaemia are treated by replacing the missing compound. Infants with febrile convulsions may be sponged with tepid water and fever reduced with paracetamol.
In epilepsy, unless it is particularly severe, the movements seldom need to be restrained. If convulsions persist beyond a few minutes it may be necessary to give BENZODIAZEPINES, either intravenously or rectally. In the UK, paramedics are trained to do this; likewise many parents of epileptic children are capable of administering the necessary treatment. If however this fails to stop the convulsions immediately, hospital admission is needed for further treatment. Once ﬁts are under control, the cause of the convulsions must be sought and the necessary long-term treatment given.